Unsubstantiated collagen supplementation claims spotlighted

Posted 11 March 2022

Collagen, a component of skin, hair, nails, joints, bones, tendons, and cartilage, is marketed by major retailers as a dietary supplement product for health and beauty. Noting that there are over 8.5 million posts with the hashtag “collagen” on Instagram alone and Google searches for collagen supplements have increased rapidly since 2015, researchers: (a) watched and analyzed the first 100 YouTube videos resulting from a search of “collagen,” (b) analyzed the top 50 Instagram photographs with the hashtag “collagen,” (c) reviewed the scientific literature regarding skin, nail, and hair effects of collagen, and (d) reviewed websites of popular collagen brands for claims related to skin, nail, and hair.
Reference: Rustad AM. Myths and media in oral collagen supplementation for the skin, nails, and hair: A review. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 21:438-443, 2022

Their findings included:

  • Over 75% of YouTube videos and Instagram posts recommended collagen supplementation with most claiming it’s beneficial for skin.
  • Financial bias was common (two-thirds of the YouTube videos and most Instagram posts) and associated with recommending collagen supplementation and claiming benefits.
  • Most YouTube videos and almost all Instagram posts were uploaded by people without healthcare or medical expertise.
  • A variety of collagen supplementation benefits appear on marketers’ websites.
  • Systematic reviews have noted evidence from small randomized controlled trials of skin benefits from taking some forms of collagen.
  • No reports of clinical trials on the effect of collagen supplementation on hair have been published.
  • One study lacking a control group found nail growth after collagen supplementation.
  • Dermatologic claims in the media go beyond what the literature supports.
  • The main downside of collagen supplementation is that daily use can be costly.

The researchers concluded:

Collagen supplementation is a promising area of research, yet dermatologic claims in the media surpass any evidence currently proven in the literature. More research, especially larger trials with standardized dosage and formulation, is needed to establish stronger knowledge of the effects and physiologic mechanism of collagen supplementation. Dermatology providers should be aware of the excessive proclamations of collagen’s effects being made by companies and in social media, as patients are likely to ask about or try collagen supplementation. There is a considerable opportunity for dermatologists to increase their presence on social media to help educate the public properly about skin health and supplements such as collagen to combat misinformation and exaggerated promises.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #22-10, March 5, 2022

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